In continuing our summer football coverage, we are counting down Northwestern’s Top 10 most important players in 2022. We’ve created a composite averaging the rankings of each of our staffer’s respective lists, revealing who we believe to be the most crucial to the Wildcat’s upcoming success.
However, we know that is up for interpretation. For some, it could mean the value of one player over his backup. It could mean players in crucial roles. It could also mean players who have underperformed and need to step up.
Only one thing is known: no two lists from our staff members are the same. That’s why for each player, we’ll have at least one member break down their placement for the aforementioned player.
Ignacio Dowling (6)
Adetomiwa Adebawore should be the foundation for a defensive line that underwent immense change this offseason. He is one of only two returning starters on the unit, and he is coming off a solid 2021 season amid Northwestern’s defensive struggles. As the lone edge rushing threat on the ‘Cats, Adebawore racked up 4.5 sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss last year en route to an All-Big Ten honorable mention.
Circumstances appear similar for the senior this season. The other defensive end spot is up for grabs, meaning that offensive lines will again primarily gameplan to stymie Adebawore. His importance will depend on how that fact will change over the course of the season. Adebawore doesn’t need to put up a double-digit sack total to improve the defensive line as a whole. Instead, he’ll need to maintain his 2021 production while demanding enough attention every week to free up his teammates.
Ultimately, the defensive attention Adebawore garners may not be indicative of his performance nor that of the unit. In other words, there is a decent chance his individual success will not directly reflect the defensive line’s, and vice versa.
That’s why I slotted Adebawore slightly low at number six. He is arguably Northwestern’s most dangerous defensive weapon. But whether he morphs into the Big Ten’s best edge rusher or puts up similar numbers to last season, Adebawore will still rely on his fellow linemen as well as the playmakers behind him for Northwestern’s defense to sink or swim.